As expected, the City Council on Wednesday approved a plan to try and entice boaters back to the marina by dredging the entrance and three of the four silt-filled docks. The whole so-called Plan A should cost about $786,000, according to contract employee Mitch Austin.
If the new slips do entice more boaters to return to the marina, Austin said the revenue will pay for ongoing maintenance dredging.
The money would be taken from a Shell donation and Measure WW park bond money.
The plan was approved by four of the five council members. Councilman Mike Menesini voted against the plan, calling for the state to step up and the city rebuild the ailing facility.
“The state is effectively a business partner with the city with respect to the marina,” Menesini said. “There were promises made, or at least indications, that a significant amount of money would be made available (from the state) to reconstruct the marina. Those offers have been withdrawn. The bottom line is the state is trying to change the original terms and agreements, to extricate themselves from the original agreement. We had a partner in the state, and all of a sudden, little Martinez is supposed to carry the entire burden here. I don’t really think we can.”
Mayor Rob Schroder said he was not willing at this point to “walk away from my obligation,” likening the agreement between the city and the state to a home mortgage.
“If my home is in trouble, I’m going to do what I can to keep it,” he said. “If I have to walk away, then I will. But I’m not there yet.”
Menesisi said he resented the implication that he was walking away from an obligation, insisting instead that it was the state doing the walking.
Councilwoman DeLaney asked why the city’s private partner at the marina, Almar, was not doing more to help rebuild the facility.
“Where is their contribution to the plan,” she asked. “All I’m seeing is us relying on donations and Measure WW funds. This doesn’t look like a partnership with our private partner.”
Schroder said the agreement with Almar was that the city would, through loans from the state, rebuild the eastern wall and dredge the entire marina, at which point Almar would rebuild the docks. In November, the state said it would not loan the city money for the project until it had repaid most of the $4 million it has in outstanding loans.
City Manager Phil Vince said the city attorney is currently investigating whether the original 1959 loan is still valid. He said he believes it may be a “toxic” loan, since repayment was predicated on the marina having a positive cash flow, which he said it has never had.
Meanwhile, Phil Ciaramintaro suggested that the city purchase its own dredging machine for $530,000. He said the city could save money by dredging on a more regular basis, and leasing the dredger to other nearby cities, or entering into a co-ownership agreement.
Councilman Mark Ross said the idea could work in the long run, but would not solve the immediate problem because the city needs to dredge the marina now to establish a cash flow and convince the state to loan the facility more money.